Two ways to holiday

A sampler of the season's essential events---and six quirky alternatives.



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  • Photograph: Arthur Getz courtesy The New Yorker

    Holiday Train Show

  • Handel's Messiah

  • Photograph: Paul Kolnik

    George Balanchine's The Nutcracker

    George Balanchine's The Nutcracker

  • Union Square Holiday Market

  • Photograph: Leah Reddy

    "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" reading

  • Jewish Lower East Side walking tour

Photograph: Arthur Getz courtesy The New Yorker

Holiday Train Show

RECOMMENDED: Christmas in New York guide 2012

Classics | Alternatives


Holiday Train Show
Model trains—including replicas of Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North and subway cars—travel along a 34-foot-long track, around versions of New York City landmarks, such as the Brooklyn and Hell Gate Bridges, before arriving at their final destination: the North Pole. New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex, Grand Central Terminal, E 42nd St between Lexington and Vanderbilt Aves ( Mon--Fri 8am--8pm, Sat 10am--8pm, Sun 10am--7pm; free. Through Jan 16.

Handel's Messiah
The German composer's holiday classic will be performed all around town this month, but how many companies can say that they've been doing it for more than a century? The Oratorio Society of New York brings its annual tradition, which began in 1874, to Carnegie Hall. 154 W 57th St between Sixth and Seventh Aves ( Mon 19 at 8pm; $22--$85.

George Balanchine's The Nutcracker
The New York City Ballet's classic production of the Tchaikovsky ballet is always an impressive sight: In addition to Balanchine's splendid choreography, the show features a faux snowstorm (the flakes are made from paper) and a ginormous Christmas tree that reaches a full height of 40 feet. David H. Koch Theater (at Lincoln Center), 20 Lincoln Center Plaza at 63rd St (212-496-0600, Schedule varies; $29--$250. Through Dec 31.

Union Square Holiday Market
Good news: If you put off your holiday shopping until the last minute, this outdoor bazaar is open through Sat 24. More than 120 vendors will sell unique items, such as Engage Green's messenger bags made from recycled water bottles ($49). 14th St to 17th St between Broadway and Park Ave South (212-529-9262, Mon--Fri 11am--8pm, Sat 10am--8pm, Sun 11am--7pm; free. Through Sat 24.

"'Twas the Night Before Christmas" reading
The historic Church of the Intercession hosts its 101st reading of Clement Clarke Moore's iconic poem, led by jazz bassist Ron Carter. Afterward, attendees can join a lantern-lit procession to the Trinity Church Cemetery and Mausoleum, just across the street, to lay a wreath on Moore's grave. 550 W 155th St at Broadway (212-283-6200, Sun 18 at 4pm; free.

Jewish Lower East Side walking tour
Bundle up and prepare for a history lesson on this trek through the downtown neighborhood, hosted by Big Onion Walking Tours. You'll see the former headquarters of The Jewish Daily Forward (now a luxury building), the Eldridge Street Synagogue and more. Plus, you can enjoy a snack of sour pickles midtour. Meet at the southwest corner of Delancey and Essex Sts ( Sun 25 at 10:30am, 1pm; $15--$18.

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